As bizarre as it sounds, using image stabilisation (IS) or optical stabilisation can actually ruin your shot! Manufacturers are always claiming that it improves your shots. Well, not always. Sometimes the cause of movement in your camera is the technology itself.
Hand-held shots are definitely improved by the use of IS. It stabilises the shot and helps to iron out any shake created by the hand-hold.
When it comes to using a tripod things are different. The action of the stabilising motor in the lens has an impact. Any photograph taken with IS turned on will cause the motor in the lens to try and smooth out any movement. The same applies to the action of the autofocus… it hunts for a focus using mechanical changes which causes movement. The two play off each other. What actually happens is that both the auto-focus and the IS system create their own movement. This is translated into vibration in the tripod. The IS system then trys to iron out the movement in the tripod – which makes things worse!
The result is that the auto-focus and the IS create movement, not prevent it when on a stiff mount like a tripod. This leads to a deterioration in your picture quality. You may find that the shots you get with these turned on are quite ‘reasonable’. However, I would rather see excellent, not reasonable shots. Sharpness in your photography is a quality goal that needs to be pursued at all costs. As you get better you want more sharpness.
The simple answer is to turn off auto-focus and your IS system when using the tripod. The IS is not needed anyway because the lens should be steady on the tripod; the auto-focus is not ‘hunting’ for the sharpness. This leaves you in control and doing your own manual focus.
It is a small improvement we are looking for when turning off the auto-functions. Yet, if you add this to the other techniques you use to get sharper shots you begin to see vast improvements in the outcome of your pictures. It all adds up in the end!
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